Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
These days, there are feline nutrition experts who insist that there is no such thing as good dry food. In fact, the title of this article alone is bound to make some cat lovers shudder. Let's explore why kibble isn't necessarily a good option for some cats and why it can be for others if you choose the right type. If you choose to feed kibble, we'll show you what makes the best dry cat food.
Why Some Owners Avoid Kibble
Dry cat food is the most processed form of cat food.
- It is more likely to contain a large amount of carbohydrates, used as fillers to bind together the other ingredients.
- It is usually sprayed with fat and flavor-enhancers. This makes kibble highly desirable to your kitty, potentially to the point of developing an addiction to the flavor and making it more difficult to switch to healthier food.
- Perhaps the most significant problem with feeding dry cat food is that it's... dry. In the wild, most felines get their water from their food. Prey, or the equivalent raw or canned food, contains water as its main ingredient. Drinking water isn't something cats do a lot. If they're exclusively fed dry cat food they're likely to take in less water, which some people think may affect their overall health.
And no, non-prescription kibble does not promote dental health. You can read more about this here: Does Dry Food Actually Clean Your Cat's Teeth?
When Dry Cat Food May Be A Good Choice For You
Some people choose to feed dry because they opt to free-feed their cats. Free-feeding is not something you can do with canned or raw food, as wet foods can spoil rather quickly. If this is your reason for feeding dry, please read more about Choosing the Right Cat Food for Your Cat and You. The main reason most people feed kibble is cost. Dry cat food is indeed cheaper compared to canned or raw. Some people claim that the cost of medical bills down the road may outweigh the savings on cat food now, but with no lifetime studies to prove that dry food is indeed harmful, their claim is merely an opinion and not fact. Cost is particularly significant for people feeding a large number of cats, such as those taking care of a colony of feral cats. The need to help a large number of cats using limited funds may mean dry cat food becomes the only choice.
Dry food can also be beneficial for underweight cats. It is the most calorie-dense form of cat food so can help a cat gain some needed weight. Of course, this also means overweight cats may benefit from a wet-only diet. The extra water contributes toward satiety and the cat feels fuller when in fact she's eating fewer calories.
How to Choose the Best Possible Dry Cat Food
Not all dry cat food is made equal. If you choose to feed dry, you can still try and provide Kitty with healthier choices within this food category. Price is often a factor here as well, with cheaper no-name foods or grocery store brands being cheaper and of lower quality. Yet, even expensive dry cat food labeled as "premium" or "super premium" foods are not necessarily a good choice. As with canned food, you need to read the labels and assess the quality of the food yourself. Opt for dry cat food that is low on carbs and high on protein. The more meat protein in the food the better. Protein derived from plant sources, such as soy and other legumes is less preferable.
Grain-free is a good starting point in identifying a healthier dry food. While grains are fine for humans, they can become allergy triggers in cats. A grain-free food is not by definition high protein, or even low-carb, as they often include other sources of starch. Look for a dry food that is high protein, low carbohydrate, with animal-based protein sources.
How to Feed Dry Cat Food to Your Cat
Choosing the right type of dry cat food is the first step, but you can also do the following to increase your cat's water intake and counter the negative effects associated with consuming only dry cat food-
1. Variety is better.
If you can afford to, consider providing one or two meals of wet food daily, and using kibble as part of the diet to lower the total cost. There are relatively healthy low-cost canned food options. Read more about choosing the best canned food for your cat here. Even if you feed dry-only, it's a good idea to expose your cat to a variety of flavors and formulas.
2. Encourage your cats to drink plenty of water.
This can help offset the main drawback of feeding dry. Here's a great list of tips for increasing your cat's water intake. As always, check our Cat Nutrition Forums for more information. You can post and ask for advice for your specific situation, or find out which brands of dry cat food our members recommend.